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Germany’s largest mosque set to build in Cologne


Cologne : Cologne City Council has voted in favor of building Germany’s largest mosque despite a fierce opposition from right-wing groups. “We are building this for all the people of Cologne, not just Muslims,” said the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DITIB) in a statement. The city council voted Thursday, to allow Muslim groups to build the mosque in Cologne’s Ehrenfeld district, according to a report carried by Der Spiegel. Left and center parties and Cologne Mayor Schramma voted for the construction while the Christian Democrats and the extreme right anti-mosque initiative Pro Cologne voted against.

The mosque plans have been on the cards for more than a year over the city council’s opposition to the mosque’s minarets. But a compromise was reached Thursday under which DITIB agreed to shorten the mosque’s minarets. DITIB has also agreed not to broadcast Adhan (call to prayer) over loudspeakers, IslamOnline reported. “The mosque will be a symbol of co-existence in peace and trust and without fear,” said DITIB. The mosque, which will cater for 4,000 worshippers, will have a dome reaching 37 meters high, two 55-metre minarets and glass walls. Its structure, which will cost between €15 billion and €20 billion, financed by private donations, will complete in 2010.

Germany is home to some 3.2 million Muslims, over half of whom are of Turkish origin. There are now 159 mosques in Germany. “I think the new mosque will be such an architectural masterpiece that tour buses will take people to see it after they visit the Cologne Cathedral,” Josef Wirges, the local council member for Ehrenfeld and member of the Social Democrats (SPD), said. Wirges said that Muslims can now start building their worship place. “They can start tearing down the old factory building tomorrow.” Right-wingers have ferociously campaigned against the mosque, drumming up support from as far away as Austria and Belgium.

Supporting the Cologne protestors, Jorg Haider, head of the right-wing Alliance for the Future of Austria (BZO), has launched an attempt to ban mosques in his native Austria. Right-wingers are planning an anti-mosque demonstration on September 19. Though Islam is Europe’s second religion, European Muslims are facing campaigns from far-right groups to have stately mosques on claims that they are signs of the “Islamization” of Europe.

In London, a petition against a mosque next to the 2012 London Olympics site was posted on Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s Web site.

In France, which is home to Europe’s largest Muslim minority of about six million, the National Republican Movement (MNR) won two court cases last year against giving pieces of land at low prices to Muslims to build two mosques in suburbs of Montreuil and in Marseille, both having a sizable Muslim minority. In Switzerland, the right-wing SVP party has amassed 113,540 signatures, enough to force a nationwide vote on banning mosque minarets in the country. In Italy, the far-right Northern League is planning to table a draft law that would effectively block the construction of mosques in the southern European country.